Monday, April 23, 2012

Policy Fair 2012 - Road Sector and Family Day Steal the Show

By Mawutodzi Abissath
Do you know that competition engenders excellence? Gradually but subtly, the Dialogue Session module of the Information Ministry-initiated Policy Fair is emerging as a national platform for intellectual and strategic thinking pageant. And the quality of speakers and moderators for this year’s event was beyond compare. The other component of the Fair is Exhibitions by MDAs. Without exaggeration, all the dialogue sessions of the just-ended National Policy Fair –the 3rd in series held at the plush Accra International Conference Centre from 16st to 21st April, 2012 was not only mind-boggling, but titillating, thrilling, exiting, insightful and soul moving! It was fantastic! Most Rev.Gabriel Charles Palmer-Buckle, Metropolitan Archbishop of Accra was the man of God who beseeched the presence of the Commander-in-Chief of the Universe to take control and direct affairs. And indeed, despite all human errors and challenges, the event came to a successful end with a Muslim prayer by Hon. Baba Jamal Ahmed Mohammed, Deputy Minister for Tourism. If I were granted the privilege to declare a winner of the quoloquim, (dialogue sessions), Hon. Joe Gidisu of the Road sector and Rev. Dr. Samuel Kisseadoo of the Family Day would have shared the first prize for Speakers category, while Hon. Ben Ephson of the Daily Dispatch and Hon. Kwesi Pratt of The Insight would share the Moderators award. The quality was apt! But the object of this piece is to highlight the salient points in the presentation made by the Roads and Highways Minister because time did not allow him to do justice to his topic and more importantly, “he who brings you roads brings you life.” All the 230 Parliamentarians want roads in their constituencies at ago, especially during this election year. But roads budget is always cut. First of all this writer can affirm and confirm that Ghanaian roads engineers at the Highway Authority, Department of Feeder Roads and the Department at Urban Roads do not have the luxury to sit and enjoy the cozy comfort of their fully air-conditioned offices at all. The nature of their work finds them in virgin forests, swampy and mushy rivers, abyss valleys, or struggling to climb Rocky Mountains and hills in efforts to take roads to the last living soul at the end of the rainbow. Speaking from experience, I can vouch for their commitment and dedication to bring life to all Ghanaians in most deprived rural communities through roads. Labour-Based Technology (LBT): According to the Roads Minister, the Labour-based in road maintenance and rehabilitation policy was reintroduced in 2009; and as at the end of 2011, thirty-three (33) contracts had been awarded creating jobs for about 4,200 “mouths” in the country. Road Maintenance Financing: An automated toll collection was introduced for the first time in this country in September 2010 to improve revenue generation into the Road Fund. The Minister pointed out that since the electronic toll collection came into being, “the Road and Bridge Tolls which used to generate only 2% of total Road Fund revenue now constitute about 17% of the total revenue.” Axle Load Control: To protect the heavy investment Government was pumping in road infrastructure, the Ministry has to intensify the enforcement of the Law on Axle Load Limit as provided in the Road Traffic Act 2004 (Act 683) and ECOWAS Supplementary Act on Axle Load. So far, the Ghana Highway Authority has constructed 14 permanent Weighbridge Stations (PWS) out of a total of 26 programmed for the country. The Ministry has further contracted the supply of six (6) more permanent Weigh equipment while four (4) portable Weigh pads were expected to be awarded soon. Public Private Partnerships (PPP) Having realized that road infrastructure is a capital intensive venture that government alone cannot shoulder, “the Ministry is exploring Public Private Partnership (PPP) schemes in financing, construction and management of road infrastructure,” it was disclosed. The Minister revealed that the contract for the financing, construction and maintenance of an Overpass on the Motorway at Teshie Link has been signed with Trascacco and works will commence soon. “Dualization of the Accra-Cape Coast- Takoradi Road,” is another result of PPP. Mr. Gidisu said Cabinet has given approval for the Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) arrangement of the dualization of the Accra-Kumasi trunk road and procurement has gone far with Arterial Roads as the main company. Chinese Loan Facility: “The Government has received a loan of US$3billion from China Development Bank towards various infrastructure developments in various sectors of the economy. Part of the loan will be applied for the construction of various roads, notably the Oil Enclave roads in the Western Region and some roads in the Accra Metropolitan Area,” said Mr. Gidisu. Some of these projects are Mpataba-Ekpu-New Town road, Sankor Junction –Cape Three points road, Agona Nkwanta-Discove road, Busua Junction-Princess Town road all in the Western Region. Then the La Beach Road (Accra-Tema) completion project; Area-wide Traffic Control Centre and Intelligent System for Street Lights in Accra. The Minister said about US$180 million would be used to upgrade 400km of Gravel Roads to bitumen surfacing and 300km of earth roads to gravel surface to improve access roads under the Eastern Corridor Multi-Modal Transportation Project, he noted. Status of some major on-going projects: The Government says it is committed to the continuation of road projects started before 2009. Here is evidence provided by the Roads Minister at the Policy Fair: Tetteh Quashie – Madina Road as of 2009 stood at 29% and moved to 75% as of March 2012; Madina –Pantang Road moved from Mobilization to 65%; Achimota –Ofankor Road -22% to 93%; Nsawam Bypass, Mobilization to 96%; Nkwakaw Bypass, Mobilization to 80%; Construction of Sofoline Road was elevated from 5% to 70%; Kumasi –Techiman Road (ph2), 40% to Completion; Oforikrom – Asokwa Bypass moved from 10% to 95%. Other important projects are Sogakope –Adidome-Ho-Fume Road (ph1) was elevated from 70% to total completion; Bamboi –Tinga Road also moved from 55% to completion; Kasardjan Road in Koforidua moved from 40% to a total completion; Accra CDB Roads (High Street & Asafiatse Nettey) as well as Achimota Transport Terminal in the capital moved from 50% and 70% respectively to total completion by March this year. New Road Projects: Besides the inherited on-projects, Government itself has initiated some critical new road projects since 2009. Some of these new projects were categorized into Trunk, Feeder and Urban Roads which the Minister enumerated as follows: Buipe-Tamale (104km) (IDA) - the contract for the rehabilitation/pavement strengthening of this road section has been awarded. The Minister said the contractor has mobilized to site and works have since commenced in earnest; adding that the Contractor is China Jianxi International Corporation. Asikuma Junction-Hohoe Road (45km) (GoG), is another new project for which construction took off in October last year and work is reported to be progressing unabated. The Contactor is GS International Developers, said the Minister. Dodo Pepesu-Nkwata Road reconstruction (46km) (EU) has been awarded to Oumarou Kanazoe of Burkina Faso and work expected to take off in this second quarter of the year. Other crucial new projects include Reconstruction of Nkwanta –Oti Road (58km); Rehabilitation of Adomi Bridge, Reconstruction of Takoradi-Agona Junction (25km); Rehabilitation of Agona Junction – Elubo (25km); Reconstruction of Tarkwa –Bogoso-Ayamfuri (94.4km) and Rehabilitation of Ayamfuri – Asawinso (52.2km) for which evaluation and tenders have been completed and works expected to commence this quarter. Up-north, two contractors have commenced reconstruction works (147km) from both the Fufulso and Sawla ends. Meanwhile, construction of seven (7) Bridges (BADA/GOG) to “remove bottlenecks on the highway network has commended at key locations,” disclosed the Minister. Some of the rivers over which these bridges are to be constructed include Aboabo, Birim, Asuboni and Ochi all in the Eastern Region. Others are Kalanmua and Sissili in the Upper East Region; as well as Nanpeni River in the Brong Ahafo Region. In fact, “Lot 1 is 48% complete and Lot 2 is 44% complete, noted the Roads Minister. District Capital Roads “Sixty-Nine (69) Districts Capitals in all the 10 regions are benefiting from a programme dubbed “District Capital Roads Improvement Project (DCRIP)- Japanese,” said the Minister. According to him, the project has been divided into three phases and works under phases 1, 2, and 3 are 84%, 85%, and 84% completed respectively. All things being equal, 143km of town roads will be surface dressed by the end of phase 3 next year. Other Feeder Roads and Bridges, as well as Urban Roads both in Accra, Kumasi, Tema such as Spintex Road, Dansoman High Street, GIMPA Bypass, Zenu-Ashiaman Road, Ekon Bridge in Cape Cape Coast; Kaase Road in Kumasi, Nalung Roads in Takoradi, CK and Fiave Road in Ho, have been completed or near completion. COCOBOD Funded Programme It is encouraging to learn that COCOBOD has been collaborating with the Ministry in rehabilitation, upgrading and maintenance of roads vital for haulage of cocoa, coffee and sheanuts. So, from Bunkpurugu-Yunyoo in the North to Tema in the South, road projects are on course under the Better Ghana Agenda. In his concluding remarks,Moderator of the Road Sector Dialogue Session, Hon Ben Ephson commented: “If the road engineers in Ghana were sleeping in their offices, they would not have been able to competently handle the questions that were fired at them the way they did!”
Joe Gidisu, Minister for Roads and Highways (L) Speaker making his presentation, while Mr. Ben Ephson Editor –in- Chief, The Daily Dispatch (M) Moderator jotting down notes. On the right is a Rep of Ministry of Health at the Policy Fair.
The Writer is Deputy Director/Head of ICT at the Information Services Department,Ministry of Information, Accra -Ghana

Ghana To Start E-Service Billing This Year 2012

By Mawutodzi K. Abissath
All things being equal, the Government of Ghana (GoG) will initiate an e-service billing on pilot basis by April this year. This is made possible by a successful implementation of e-government network system among some 85 Ministries, Municipals, Departments and Agencies (MMDAs) to communicate efficiently and seamlessly and to do government business across the country. Mr. William Tevie, Director General of the National Information Technology Agency (NITA), disclosed this to about 500 participants drawn from various MMDAs at a conference yesterday at the Alisa Hotel here in the capital city of Accra. “It is in this light that NITA has invited you here to show you what services are available and to discuss the proposed pricing for these services before billing begins from 1st April, 2012,” said Tevie. According to Tevie, NITA was established by an Act of Parliament Act 771 in 2008 as a policy implementation arm of the Ministry of Communications. He explained that NITA’s focus is to lead in the transformation of Public Service information management and efficient delivery of services by government to citizens; provide the foundation and framework for utilizing information and technology to transform Ghana into a value-based knowledge society, as well as create the necessary environment and empower the public to facilitate the transformation required to achieve the technological vision of the nation. “In addition, NITA has been mandated to encourage all Ghanaians to participate in and utilize the opportunity made available by Information and Communication Technology (ICT),” Tevie stressed. Tevie told conference delegates that in an effort to exercise its mandate, the first step his organization (NITA) took over the last few years was the establishment of the e-government network to minimize, if not totally eradicate bureaucracy and ‘red-tapeism’ from among MMDAs. “The multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) network give engineers the flexibility to transport and route several types of network traffic using the technologies of MPLS backbone and to divert and route traffic around link failures, congestion, and bottlenecks,” explained Tevie as strategy adopted by NITA. According to NITA boss, today, over 85 government institutions are currently connected to this network. “Plans are far advanced to install fiber connectivity in the eastern corridor of Ghana, a place which has been neglected by many commercial service providers due to lack of viable business prospects,” he revealed. Tevie disclosed that the second phase of the e-government project will ensure that all 170 districts and large towns have connectivity via fiber optics and WIMAX connectivity he noted. Tevie further informed participants that NITA has also rolled out a pilot data centre where several applications are being provisioned from. “NITA today is providing Anti-virus services, active directory services, email services, storage services and web hosting services from the pilot data centre.” He added, “The national data center which will be managed by NITA is under construction and will be commissioned towards the end of the year.” He pointed out that with the availability of the data center, loss of data through fire would be a thing of the past. (Ghana is notorious for fire out-breaks, especially at public mark places). Tevie again told the meeting that a second data centre in Kumasi, the second larger city about 600 kilometers north of Accra, and a backup data center in Takoradi some 700km west of the capital, have been planned in the second phase of the e-government network roll out. “This is to ensure that government services are seamless with minimal downtime,” Tevie opined. Throwing more light on some e-services that have already been initiated in some sectors across MMDAs, Tevie enumerated: “Eleven MDAs including Birth and death registry, passport office, registrar general’s department , Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), Department of Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA), have started e-services aimed at serving the citizenry via online service delivery, he said. For the information of participants, Tevie hinted, “An e-payment platform was recently launched to enable citizenry to pay for these services online. E-parliament and e-immigration are all in different stages of development.” Tevie proposed that the second phase of the project will also see e-health system deployed. “Most of these services have been made possible through funding from the World Bank and other funding agencies. In order to ensure that these services are sustainable, there is a need to charge cost recovery fees as external funding wane. “Maintenance of the infrastructure is also very important . All these require that users pay a fee for every service used to enable NITA maintain and sustain the infrastructure. It is in this light that NITA has invited you here to show you what services are available and to discuss the proposed pricing for these services before billing begins from 1st April, 2012,” Tevie concluded. It is recalled that July 2006, the World Bank approved a loan of $40million USD for the Government of Ghana through the Ministry of Communications to assist Ghana, among other things to generate growth and employment by leveraging ICT and public-private partnership (PPP) to develop ICT Enabled Services industry as well as contribute to improve efficiency and transparency of selected government functions through e-government applications. Other topic through which conference participants were taken through included e-Government Infrastructure, Service Provisioning Billing, Domain Registration, E-Applications, Standards and Enterprise Architecture. Writer is Deputy Director/Head of ICT at the Information Services Department, Ministry of Information -Accra,Ghana

Saturday, April 14, 2012

ECOWAS Network of Science Journalists

Abissath's Profile

Abissath is a veteran Ghanaian bilingual journalist, writer, poet and blogger. He holds B.A (Hons) Communication Studies from the University of Ghana and Diploma in Journalism from the Ghana Institute of Journalism GIJ). He has had a stint at the Institute of System Sciences, National University of Singapore as well as at the Ecole Nationale d'Administration, Paris, France, where he studied Project Management of Information Technology (IT) for Chief Innovation Officers (CIOs) and Communication Diplomacy respectively.
He has been a communication practitioner for over a quarter of a century (25 years).
He spent 12 years out of the 25 in Public Relations practice where he served various institutions including the National Commission on Culture, Ministry of Communications, Ministry of Information and Ministry of Roads and Highways, all in Accra, Ghana as Government Public Affairs Director. Among his schedules was advising authorities and Ministers of these sectors of national economy on communication policy issues as well as drafting speeches and co-coordinating all media events of these state institutions.
He has published over 500 features or articles in newspapers, magazines, on the Internet in both French and English. He has freelanced for the two leading national dailies in Ghana, namely the Daily Graphic and the Ghanaian Times for over 20 years running.

•He is the author of “Friends of Tomorrow- Poems for Young Children” (1994).
• Co-author, Traditional Wisdom in African Proverbs (2004).This is a collection of about 1000 proverbs from over 40 African countries.
• Kofi Annan the Great: Eulogy to the Former UN Secretary-General under publication (2007).
• Expert Author since (2005), Web-based publication.
Abissath currently has in his possession a collection of over unpublished pieces of 70 poetry under the title: BE USEFUL AND OTHER PHILOSOPHICAL POEMS. (Interested publishers may get in touch)
Abissath has had an appreciable international exposure. He is an alumnus of Ecole Nationale d’Administration (l’ENA) Paris, France, National University of Singapore and Nanyang Polytechnic also in Singapore.
He is a member of ECOWAS Science Journalists Newtork Steering Committed headquarted in Abuja, Nigerian
Abissath is currently Deputy Director and Head of ICT Division of the Information Services Department of Ministry of Information, Accra, Ghana.
He is the Content Manager Government of Ghana Portal (G0G Portal), the Official National Website of the Republic of Ghana
His blogs: